SWITZERLAND - Lane Clark & Peacock has bought Swiss employee benefit consultancy Libera from Ernst & Young for around 20 million Swiss francs (13.2 million euros).

The move follows LCP's purchase of Ernst & Young's actuarial practice in Belgium in February. Tony Mason, LCP's managing director, said: "Switzerland is of strategic importance to us." He added that there had been a lot of interest in Libera from other firms.

LCP, part of South Africa-based Alexander Forbes, said in a statement: "The deal provides LCP with a leading position in the administration, actuarial and pension scheme design markets in Switzerland." Libera has around 80 specialists in offices in Zurich and Basel.

It will be renamed LCP Libera and be headed by Ulrich Wehrli as managing director. LCP said Libera has been established for more than 30 years and has a market share of around 20%.

Alexander Forbes said: "The formation of LCP Libera marks a further step in Alexander Forbes' strategic plan to develop an actuarial consulting capability serving European countries with developed, funded pension systems."

LCP’s strategy partner Tony Cunningham said: “This acquisition further underlines the development of LCP's European growth strategy and demonstrates our determination to have a presence in all major European markets either directly or through our MGAC network.”

Wehrli said: "We are delighted to be joining LCP and becoming part of a large international group focussed on providing quality employee benefit consulting to our clients.”

Libera had a turnover of 18.5 million francs in the year to June 30 2004. Mason declined to comment on its profitability.

He added that LCP would continue to look at opportunities, whether acquisitions or partnerships.